Cancer Survival for Alternative vs. Usual Treatment Examined

Alternative medicine independently tied to greater mortality risk compared to conventional treatment
Alternative medicine independently tied to greater mortality risk compared to conventional treatment

HealthDay News — Patients who choose alternative medicine over traditional cancer treatments for curable cancers have a higher risk of dying early, according to research published online August 10 in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

Using the National Cancer Database, which represents approximately 70% of newly diagnosed cancers nationwide, the researchers studied 840 patients with breast, prostate, lung, and colorectal cancers. The researchers compared 280 patients who chose alternative medicine alone to 560 patients who underwent conventional cancer treatment. The researchers followed the patients from 2004 to 2013. 

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The investigators found that those patients who received alternative therapy instead of the usual treatments were more likely to die during the study. Alternative medicine was independently associated with greater risk of death compared with conventional cancer treatment overall (hazard ratio [HR], 2.50), as well as in subgroups with breast (HR, 5.68), lung (HR, 2.17), and colorectal cancer (HR, 4.57). 

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"We now have evidence to suggest that using alternative medicine in place of proven cancer therapies results in worse survival," lead author Skyler Johnson, MD, from the Yale School of Medicine and Yale Cancer Center in New Haven, Conn., said in a school news release. "It is our hope that this information can be used by patients and physicians when discussing the impact of cancer treatment decisions on survival."

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